From David Betz at Kings of War (hat tip to Charles Cameron)
As many of you will know the UK MoD is at work now on the preparation of a Green Paper leading up to a full (and overdue) defence review next year. We have been discussing many of the key issues in British strategy here on this blog for two years already. I think it speaks well of the informed and thoughtful KOW readership that the MoD Strategy Unit is now reaching out to this little corner of the defence blogosphere to engage with us on such matters. Below I am posting a note from Vincent Devine, who heads the Strategy Unit, which is intended to kick off a debate here on these pages on issues of mutual concern. I am personally chuffed that we have been asked. More importantly, I welcome the spirit of openness to debate and alternative views which the gesture represents. Across the pond they have been better at this, see The Army Needs Your Help, for instance, and I think they have realized better policy and strategy in the doing. I could quote a bunch of clichés here about ‘sunlight being the best detergent’, or ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ but, really, it’s self-evident isn’t it? Here in the UK we’ve ground to make up and not a lot of time and resource to waste and so I find this development highly encouraging.
….From here down it’s Vincent Devine talking:
I’m grateful to David Betz for letting the UK Ministry of Defence Strategy Unit engage with Kings of War to gather views about the future of the UK’s defence policy.
The Strategy Unit, which I lead, is a small team of military officers, MoD and FCO officials and international exchange officers. We are pulling together the new Defence Green Paper, which will set out some of the key defence issues before a full defence review next year. As we prepare the Green Paper we want to take advantage of the very active academic and think-tank debate on defence issues, and ideally provoke some of this discussion ourselves. We running a series of traditional, real-world seminars and meetings with experts. Via Kings of War we also want to plug into the informed and interested defence blogosphere, hoping to reach a wider and (possibly) fresher audience.
This is, as far as I know, the first time the Ministry of Defence has done this, and it is something of an experiment. Depending on your reactions, we plan to post on several occasions between now and the end of the year. We’d like each time to pose one of the defence policy questions we’re considering, and ask for your views. We won’t plan to respond to each comment as it comes in (though we might chip in if any particularly live discussion kicks off), but will offer a set of reactions and impressions to wrap up the exchanges after about a week. And we want to be able to share with you some of our emerging thinking.
We hope the process will mirror the overall Green Paper approach: it’s about identifying the key questions, rather than trying to answer them now; it firmly places our defence policy within our wider international and security policy; and it’s based on the assumption that we may need to make some tough choices. If you want more background about the Green Paper process, you can find the Defence Secretary’s Parliamentary statement here , and of course some of you may have heard his speech at King’s on this last week.
We have agreed with David some ground rules for our participation in KoW, intended to help keep the debate lively. We are contributing as the MoD Strategy Unit, rather than trying to speak for the Ministry as a whole – we therefore won’t need to have all our contributions chiselled in stone before we submit them. Neither the Strategy Unit nor KoW make any commitment to agree with or support the views of the other – which indeed would undermine the whole point. We (genuinely) want to encourage people to say what they think – the most useful comments will be those which are informed, grounded and focused.
Finally, I’d like to suggest an open question to start the discussion: as we look at setting our future defence policy, what are the greatest problems we need to tackle and – equally important – what are the greatest advantages we can exploit?
There’s been a lot of good writing on this recently, including of course from David himself and Anthony Cormack, and from Theo Farrell, Malcolm Chalmers, Paul Cornish, Andrew Dorman, Hew Strachan and others. They’ve looked both at tactical/operational issues and at the overall strategic picture. Some see the glass half-full, some half-empty. Some focus on the need for success in current operations, others on the state of the whole defence machine. They identify a very broad range of issues: which of these are causes rather than symptoms, and which show grounds for optimism, which pessimism?
I look forward to seeing what you have to say.
Post any useful suggestions or comments over at Kings of War.